Three of Prince’s guitars made it onto his album covers. For Sign O’ The Times Jeff Katz photographed Prince with a seemingly discarded peach cloud. On MPLSound art director Anthony Malzone rendered a blue Strat for the cover. The third guitar is more difficult to find – it is hidden behind the symbol on the cover of “Love Symbol”. This is the Washburn EA44.
The model number EA44 has been used by Washburn a few times since introducing the Festival series guitars in the early 80s. This version is a slim-bodied electro-acoustic guitar that was built by Washburn in the early 1990s. It has the familiar shape of other Festival series Washburns, and is equipped with Equis II pre-amplification, which included both a standard jack and XLR output. It came in Black, Tobacco Burst and Natural variants. This was one of the premium guitars in Washburn’s range, and in 1993 the retail price was US$999.99.
I don’t know how Prince came by his EA44, but it makes its first and last appearance in the official promo video for “7”. The cover of the Love Symbol album is actually a still taken from that video, with Prince and Mayte in the centre of a group of children, and he’s holding the EA44. It’s hard to make out the details of the guitar, so I went to the official video for “7” where it is much easier to see it. There’s no doubt it is the EA44.
The Paisley Park Guitar and Bass book has a couple of high quality photos of the EA44, but the details that go with the photos don’t quite add up. The text says that the guitar can be seen in the “My Name Is Prince” video, but I can’t find it anywhere (of course we do know that the Cloud Bass pops up in that video, albeit upside down). They also say that the heart mirror on the body of the guitar dates back to the Lovesexy era, but this version of the guitar was not in production until the 90s, so that’s not correct. I can see that it might have been mixed up with the guitar in the Glam Slam video (the Sigma SE-19) that also has a heart mirror on the body. Unfortunately the Guitar and Bass book has let us down, I’m hoping there will be a revised edition in the future as there are quite a few corrections that need to be made.
I’ve been searching for an EA44 since my first visit to Paisley Park in 2017. The guitar appeared in the Lovesexy room directly accessed from the atrium, which itself doesn’t quite make sense, as we know it’s not the guitar he was using at that time. I was able to get up close and confirm the model number, and then my searches started. In two and a half years I only found one example for sale, and fortunately for me it was in the UK and in great condition, and I’ve added it to my collection. Without the heart mirror the guitar is not instantly recognisable, so you may be able to find it at a reasonable price, but be prepared for a long wait.